News & Features

Show your love for birds during the Great Backyard Bird Count!

Harelde kakawi
Long-tailed Duck-Mark Peck

Get ready for some big winter birding! February 17th-20th (Friday to Monday) is the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada. The GBBC takes a worldwide snapshot of bird populations by harnessing the power of birders in communities around the globe.  During the count, information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers is collected through the eBird platform. In fact, the launch of the GBBC in 1998 was one of the first demonstrations that the internet could be used to collect bird checklists, and this finding was instrumental to the creation of eBird in 2002. Since it began, the GBBC has demonstrated the potential of the worldwide birding community.  Last year, GBBC participants in more than 130 countries counted 5,689 species of birds; more than half the known bird species in the world and 599 more species than the previous year.  This year, there are more ways than ever to share information; during the count, you can enter the GBBC photo contest, or enjoy bird images pouring in from across the globe through eBird’s new photo and rich media library.

Dark-eyed Junco-Ron Ridout. The Dark-eyed Junco was recorded on more checklists than any other species during the 2016 GBBC

Join the global team!

Although eBird constantly collects bird information from around the world, the GBBC is an exciting opportunity to unite eBirders in documenting bird populations over a four day window. Everyone who submits a checklist this coming weekend will be part of a global team.

  • How many birds can we find? There are currently 10,514 bird species in the world and eBird has recorded 98% of them. In 2016, the GBBC collected information on over half the world’s bird species for the first time since its inception.
  • How many checklists will be submitted?  Within eBird and the GBBC, the most important measure of success is the checklist. Each checklist represents a snapshot in time and space, and the number collected grows with every annual GBBC. Last year’s effort drummed up 162,052 individual checklists, more than ever before. Hopefully more records will be broken in 2017!
  • How many countries will collect data? eBird’s database currently contains data from every country in the world but many countries still have sparse submissions. We know people are observing birds in every part of the world every day, although getting their valuable observations into eBird is not always possible. However, eBird and the GBBC are breaking barriers every year. In 2016, the GBBC recorded data from 130 countries and territories. Hopefully, this number grows in 2017!
  • How will your area fare? Check out the stats for your country, state, province, or county, or even explore an individual park, refuge, preserve, or other hotspot. Here in Canada, we submitted an amazing 13, 651 checklists in 2016, especially impressive given the relatively small size of our population compared to the United States and India, our closest competitors. Within Canada, Ontarians submitted the most checklists, while British Columbians took the trophy for species diversity.

 

Top 10 countries by checklists submitted

Country Number of Checklists Number of Species
United States 131,290 665
Canada 13,651 246
India 7,796 784
Australia 1,769 529
Mexico 1,200 702
Costa Rica 423 616
Taiwan 343 254
Colombia 322 758
New Zealand 317 147
Portugal 302 202

Data as of March 2, 2016

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Top 10 Canadian Provinces by checklists submitted
* New provincial checklist record

Province Number of Checklists Number of Species
Ontario 5,951 150
British Columbia 2,230 201
Quebec 1,854* 114
Alberta 1,045* 86
Manitoba 687 65
Nova Scotia 665* 115
New Brunswick 476* 88
Saskatchewan 388 59
Newfoundland & Labrador 205* 72
Prince Edward Island 88 56

Data as of March 2, 2016
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How to follow the GBBC stats this weekend

In order to see how well our global team is doing this weekend, check out the GBBC home page. Although tailored for the GBBC, this page has most of the same functionality as eBird. You can submit data here or in your favorite eBird portal—it all goes to the same place. The eBird outputs on the GBBC homepage will show data from the GBBC period only, so you can track the following:

 

  • Location pages for GBBC–Enter any location and see the species list, birding activity, recent visits and other information restricted to the count period. Be sure to use eBird to explore this for other periods as well.
  • Hotspot pages for GBBC– Access hotspot pages from your county or state page. Scroll down the right side to see the list of Top Hotspots and then click the “More hotspots…” link at the bottom. Click any hotspot name to see that site’s activity during the GBBC. Make sure your favorite spots make a good showing this coming weekend!
  • Range Maps for GBBC – See where and how often each species is found around the world. Zoom in and click on the points to see individual records.
  • Top100 for GBBC– Check out the region-by-region contributions of individuals in terms of both number of checklists and number of species reported.
  • Yard/Patch for GBBC– If you have registered a yard or patch, you can track your stats and compare to others for the GBBC weekend only.

Redwing-Owen Strickland. Although Redwings are European birds, two sightings in Canada during the 2016 GBBC were exciting additions!

Any one of the outputs above can be posted as a link on your blog, Facebook page, listserv, or social media account of choice. Make sure to check in with the eBird Live Submissions Map this weekend. The hottest times to watch this map are likely to be 4-9pm (Eastern Standard Time or GMT -5) on Sunday and Monday. Please enjoy this year’s GBBC and thank you for joining our team! Also, a big thanks to GBBC sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.